Pride parades, traditionally held in June, give members of the LGBT community a chance to come together and celebrate our unique culture. In every corner of our nation, even in areas you’d never expect to celebrate Pride, parades and marches are organized to showcase the many great things the LGBT community has to offer. Last month, after moving out of Alaska and back across the country to Maine, I went to Portland Pride, as I do every year. What really struck me this year was the number of LGBT youth I saw at the parade and the events going on around the city, but it was the number of Gay-Straight Alliances I saw marching in the parade that really made me feel like I was home.
The huge strides schools have taken to open their arms to LGBT students are quite impressive. Ten years ago, when I was still in high school, all we had was a small Civil Rights Team, and the notion of a Gay-Straight Alliance at my old high school was still a few years away. But as I watched the sea of rainbows march down the streets of Portland, I was blown away by the support I saw from local schools. GSA banners were proudly displayed and the students holding them were beaming, excited to show off their school’s support for LGBT students, teachers, and staff.
Coming right on the heels of New York Governor Cuomo signing gay marriage into law, there was so much to be proud of this year. As an educator, this included the Secretary of Education’s letter that required schools to allow Gay-Straight Alliances if there was an interest and also mandated that these organizations be given the same access to facilities and funds that other school clubs and organizations are allowed letter, which went on to stress the importance of GSA’s and the harmful effects of bullying and harassment, is a huge step in the right direction for this country’s thousands of LGBT youth and their straight allies.
When I moved out of Alaska in late May, the school district I left behind, as wonderful as it was, didn’t have a formal GSA in any of its schools despite Safe Space stickers and a number of gay and lesbian staff members and students. The school district I’m now working at in Maine has a very active GSA that is supported by students, staff, administrators, and, most importantly, the superintendent and school board. This upcoming school year, while it will definitely be a transition for me, fills me with hope at the prospect of being a lot more involved with not only the school’s GSA but also with the needs of the LGBT community around me. I can’t wait until next year when I’m marching beside my LGBT students and allies and showing my pride and support for the next generation of leaders.